Downsizing? Where to Start

Your house is more than just a roof over your head; it’s where you’ve raised your family and celebrated many of the big moments in your life. It’s where you’ve done so much of your living! And that means it’s probably also where you’ve been accumulating a tremendous amount of stuff. Call it memories, call it clutter, call it what you will, it might be time to deal with all the old knicknacks, photos, childrens’ artwork, out-of-style clothing, dusty toys, unused holiday decorations, etc that are hiding in every corner and haunting your basement and attic. Not sure you’re ready? Well, let’s take a look at why you should consider downsizing now, and some simple ways to get started. 

Why to Get Down with Downsizing

While the thought of decluttering your home might seem daunting, it will be well worth the time it will take. There are so many advantages to downsizing, especially that amazing feeling you get after a big clear-out – I know that I still gaze happily into my tidied tupperware cabinet everyday, even though I cleaned it up months ago! But if you need more incentive, consider the following reasons to clear the clutter:

older caucasian hands holding up an old photo with other laying around.
When clearing out your home, you will come across some memories that you can share with others. 
  • You can share the memories and reduce the burden – If you’ve ever had to clear out a loved one’s home, you know it can be a very big task. But you also know that going through a lifetime of accumulated things can bring up a lot of memories as you come across keepsakes and little treasures. Take the time now to clear out so you can share your own memories, keepsakes, and treasures with your loved ones. In the process, you’ll know that your family won’t be burdened with an overwhelming job later on. 
  • Your house will be market ready – So many seniors make the big decision to sell their family home and move on to smaller digs or a retirement community. Clearing out now means you’ll have a house that’s ready to be photographed and shown to potential buyers – and clearing out will make moving so much easier! Even if you don’t plan on moving right now, when it comes down to it, your house will be sold eventually, so make the job easier for your loved ones.
  • Decluttering = de-stressing – Did you know that multiple psychological studies have shown that having clutter around us makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed, and can even make anxiety and depression worse? Cleaning, on the other hand, is a proven way to reduce stress, and get in a little exercise, too!
  • A cleaner house is a healthier house – Clutter can become a safety hazard as your mobility decreases, but it can also create an unhealthy environment in your house. Clearing out dusty, unused items can help reduce allergens and actually improve the air quality in your home. Just think of all the dust mites, pollen, and mold that will be sent packing when you clear out the clutter!
  • Tax deductions! – You shouldn’t keep everything, but you also shouldn’t throw everything away. Consider donating things to charitable organizations or homeless shelters, and get a tax write-off in the process. 

Hopefully you’ve found a reason from those above to motivate you! So now you might be wondering how to even start. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you might think; after all, no one expects the job to get done in one afternoon. What you need is a plan, and we’ve got you covered.

Trust Us, You Can Do This!

Getting started is always the hardest part, so start by telling yourself that you’re going to break the job into bite-size pieces (and reminding yourself how great you’re going to feel when you’ve accomplished your task!). Most organization experts say that making a plan is the way to go, so try following these steps:

caucasian woman holding a bucket with cleaning supplies in it

  • Gather your supplies – Number one on your list? Get yourself in gear by gathering all the supplies you’ll need to do your clear out, like garbage bags, empty boxes, markers, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. Having all of this around you will make you feel ready for the task at hand, and there’ll be no excuses or annoying breaks while you go search for more places to stash your discarded clutter. 
  • Make it seem manageable – Looking at the job ahead of you and seeing it as a possibly never-ending task would be enough to make anyone give up and hit the couch before they even start. So, as we said, break up the job and make it seem manageable. Do this by choosing one room or area at a time, and even giving yourself a set time limit to work. For example, tell yourself, “I’m going to focus on the bedroom closet today and work for two hours, then have a break. My goal is to finish that closet today, and that will be enough of an accomplishment.”
  • Use positive reinforcement – You can also use psychological tactics to keep yourself going. For example, start with a room or area that you use a lot, or that you know will look a lot better after a clear out. Noticeable results will keep you motivated!
  • Start off easy – Once you’ve picked a room to start in, ease yourself into your work by starting with the easy stuff – unquestionable junk. Throw away old makeup, broken bits and pieces, pens that don’t write, or tame your junk drawer and grocery bag collection. 
  • Categorize and use the OHIO rule – Now things start to get trickier. You’ve cleared out the junkiest junk, and now you’ve got to decide what stays and what goes. Go through every single item (yikes!) in your chosen area and, if necessary, think about what purpose it serves you. Do you love it? Or are you keeping it out of habit? Have you not touched it in a year, or not even taken it out of the package? As you think about this, put your items into the following five categories:

    caucasian hands putting a pile of clothes into a brown box.
    When deciding what to do with things, stick to the OHIO rule of whether to keep, give away, sell, throw away, or donate.
    • Keep
    • Give away
    • Garage sale potential
    • Charitable donations
    • Throw away

Avoid having a “maybe” pile, and, if you can, use the OHIO rule, which stands for “only handle it once.” Don’t keep going back and forth about whether to keep an item, only to end up with everything in a maybe pile. Try to pick it up and decide quickly. And, if you find yourself with too many items in the “keep” pile, see what duplicates you have of things and choose one favorite to keep. 

  • Avoid boredom – Try to keep the mood fun! Try playing upbeat music, or asking a friend to help and treating them to pizza. Or, ask your adult children to help if they’re up for it – maybe they’ll find a treasure or two, or at least share some memories with you! 

You’ve got a lifetime of memories in your house, but not everything is a treasure. In fact, the things collecting dust around you can be bad for your mental and physical health. You don’t have to dread the job of downsizing (or put it off until someone else has to do it for you), though. Take a lighthearted and positive approach, congratulate yourself as you make progress, and stick to it, because you can do it! Just think of how wonderful and accomplished you’ll feel afterwards – just don’t spend too much time staring in amazement at your newly decluttered space!

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